New York lawmakers are pushing for the merger of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports and the Office of Mental Health to better serve people facing both addiction and mental health crises.
The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would merge the two state government offices, creating the new Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.
“Not a week goes by that I don’t get a call from a family who has lost a loved one, who told me that a family member was in treatment six, seven, eight, nine times, but because he never treated his underlying mental health condition, they continued to self-medicate until the fentanyl caught up with them,” Senator Peter Harckham said. “This bill remove barriers in treatment programs and follow the federal government’s recommendation for integrated care.
Lawmakers highlighted what they said was a need for combined care: 70% of people with a substance use disorder also have an underlying mental health disorder. This overlap increases to 90% when a person is in crisis. Half of people living with mental illness also have an underlying substance use disorder.
“Two solo systems – OASAS and OMH – with two separate streams of funding, two separate bureaucracies for families, two separate sets of books and rules, and two separate doors, literally, to getting treatment: it just doesn’t work. not,” Harckham said. “It’s time to create a system without false doors.”
Harkcham also wants to create a seven-person permanent advisory committee on addiction and mental health programs with the aim of developing a national prevention, care and treatment policy for people experiencing mental illness and addiction and care is implemented holistically.
New York has seen a sharp and record increase in overdose deaths over the past two years, coinciding with the COVID pandemic.